Interview with Daniel Fox of Skreened, Part IV: Tell Me How Gosh-Darned Ethical You Are
Update, November 2015: Sadly, Skreened has chosen to sell third-world-made shirts where working conditions cannot be verified to match the Made-in-the-USA standard Skreened used to keep. We did not and do not agree to this ethical change. We no longer have the option to not sell these shirts if we keep open our Skreened shops… so we have closed our Skreened shops and now have no relationship with Skreened. Irregular Times cannot recommend Skreened as a source any longer.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I posted Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of an interview with Daniel Fox. Fox is the brains, brawn and piggy bank of Skreened, a web site that lets you sell ethical American Apparel t-shirts, raglans, kids’ apparel and even baby onesies — all with your own designs. We have our own small shop on Skreened.com’s beta website, and we’ll roll out a series of bigger web shops when Skreened introduces the new, fully-implemented version of its website early next month.
Below is the final portion of my conversation with Daniel Fox, in which we talk about the opening date for the new, big, sparklingly imperfect version of the Skreened website, how gosh-darned ethical he is, and the virtue of pluck:
Jim Cook: I have some really logistical questions. This new version of Skreened.com: when will it be available for people who say, “Hot Damn! I really want to do that!” When should they look out for it?
[image originally of Daniel Fox. Image censored.]
Daniel Fox: We’re shooting for February 1st , and I think we may be a little behind schedule on that, but that’s what we’re shooting for. You know, you’d always like to think that everything happens on time, and there are no bugs, but that’s always part of the process. I think it’s better to put out an incomplete process that still needs refinement, rather than wait and wait and wait until we get it just perfect and release it to everybody. Ultimately, the wisdom of the crowd using it is going to report on bugs and say, “this doesn’t work” and “this does.” I’d rather put out something that may be slightly buggy on February 1st than Beta test it and test it, then put it out on March 1st, when it will still have bugs.
Jim: Although it’s not Open Source, it almost sounds like an Open Source philosophy — to the extent that it’s always in development, always being changed and upgraded and tinkered with.
Daniel: I don’t think that’s the definition of Open Source per se.
Jim: No, but it’s one of the aspects of Open Source software, that it’s always being…
Daniel: constantly being worked on, yeah.
Jim: Was there anything else that you wanted to let us know about Skreened?
Daniel: Hey, where are all your ethical questions? I’ve got a list of all sorts of things about how gosh-darned ethical I am! (Laughing)
Jim: Well, tell me how gosh-darned ethical you are! Most of the people who visit Irregular Times are already familiar with American Apparel, and what makes their product ethical, but where do your own ethics come in in terms of production?
Daniel: I’ll tell you right off the bat that 10% of our profits are going to an organization called Asia’s Hope. They do a lot of work in Cambodia, educating and feeding and housing a lot of kids who don’t have parents. Their vision is their vision, and I’m not that great at recapitulating it to people, but it’s a good thing. I went to Cambodia in 2003 and shot a documentary for my senior thesis at OSU, and that’s something we’re doing too.
Jim: One of the things we’ve found at Irregular Times, where we give away 20% of our after-tax profits to progressive political organizations, is that the more we give away, the more we draw people in to the point that people say, “Hey, I want to buy this, because I know that these aren’t people who are just taking all their money and hoarding it.”
Daniel: Yeah, it works that way.
Jim: So what else would you say characterizes your organization, ethically speaking?
Daniel: I was thinking of posting a video on YouTube today, like an e-mail I sent out yesterday: “I’m sorry: I’m not afraid to say it.” Our credit card processor had been down for the past six days, and I thought it was just a slow month! So I sent out an e-mail to everybody, and it wasn’t corporate. It’s important everybody know I’m just a guy. We’re just people here, trying to live out our dreams.
Jim: I imagine if you set up that expectation, instead of saying you’re perfect and then just stonewalling and stonewalling, people would be a lot more understanding and forgiving.
Daniel: The whole nature of the business is partnership. You’re designing, and you’re trusting us with printing and shipping, and all of this stuff you’re trusting us with. You come into this partnership with us. And so we’ll open up the doors a little bit. I don’t want to hide anything from anybody. I’m very comfortable with people seeing what I have and what I don’t have.
The world is big enough for CafePress and Spreadshirt and Goodstorm … and Skreened. And the world is big enough for Amazon.com and ITunes … and Skreened. And MySpace and FaceBook and Skreened. The world is big enough.
I think the best I can do in that big world is to be true to myself and my values and my ethics and make a go of it, and hope that people are drawn to that.